Applying for a job these days usually involves sending your resume electronically, which may then be processed using an applicant tracking system. Recruiters and organisations are also increasingly using LinkedIn to recruit. This means that using keywords is an essential part of getting your application seen and demonstrating that you’re the best person for the role. Here’s how to identify the right keywords and use them effectively so you can get the job you want.
A high percentage of resumes are now scanned using applicant tracking systems (ATS), which means your resume may not even be seen by human eyes – unless it makes it through the initial round of scanning. More organisations are also using LinkedIn to find candidates. That means you need to use the right keywords in your resume, online profile and other content if you want your application to be seen.
A keyword is simply a specific word, set of words or phrase that relates to or describes a job, skill or experience. They can be general or specific – for example, ‘general manager’, ‘administrative assistant’, ‘report writing skills’ and ‘agile software development’ are keywords that a recruiter might use to search for candidates.
Regardless of the job you’re applying for, there are some common principles for selecting and using keywords effectively. Here are our top tips.
- Your name: Use your full name and ensure your online profile is consistent with your resume and other application documents. For example, if your resume says Greg Smith but your LinkedIn profile says Gregory C Smith, you’ve made it difficult for a recruiter to connect the two. There’s no need to include your full birth name if that’s not your preferred name. While we don’t recommend using nicknames, we do advise shortening (for example, Christopher to Chris) if that’s how you’re known in the workplace.
- Job title: Recruiters need candidates with experience that matches the role requirements. To get noticed, you should include your target job title. This doesn’t mean deceptively changing previous job titles, but simply tweaking title(s) to better describe what you did. With many of today’s organisations opting for more ‘interesting’ titles for employees, it can result in the title not necessarily articulating what you do (think ‘Director of First Impressions’ versus ‘Receptionist’). A good solution can be to use a slash to include two titles – for example, ‘Receptionist / Director of First Impressions’ or ‘Senior Administrative Assistant / Executive Assistant’. This will help you get found regardless of which title is being searched.
- Qualifications: Include relevant education, licences and certifications with the organisation that conducted the training as well as the year you completed it. Always include study you’re currently undertaking (with an estimated completion date/year). And translate difficult-to-understand qualifications (or those gained overseas) into the commonly understood equivalent. There’s no need to include high school qualifications unless you’re a recent graduate with no other training or education.
- Skills: Include a succinct list of relevant skills and capabilities focused on those most frequently mentioned in the job ad. You should create a section in your resume called ‘Key skills and capabilities’ or similar, which could include up to 15 individual skills, if necessary. This helps a recruiter to match your strengths with the right opportunity. And it’s just as important for your online profile as your resume. According to LinkedIn, members with five or more skills listed are contacted (messaged) up to 33 times more by recruiters than other LinkedIn members, and receive up to 17 times more profile views.
- Location: Many recruiters check your location so it’s important to include a city and state on your resume. If you’re searching for a new role in another state, you could say ‘relocating to Queensland in June’ or something similar. It’s also important to include your location on your LinkedIn profile. According to LinkedIn, more than 30% of recruiters will use advanced search based on location, so omitting it will reduce your chances of being found.
- Industry: Be sure to use commonly used keywords in your industry, such as ‘sales’, ‘marketing’, ‘information technology’ and ‘customer service’ to describe your field and area(s) of expertise. For LinkedIn, select an industry and sub-classification from the ‘Edit Intro’ section to better define your focus.
- Seniority: If it’s not clear from your job titles, use words such as ‘graduate’, ‘mid-level’, ‘senior’, ‘executive’ or ‘C Suite’ to show the level of seniority of past roles you’ve held or people you’ve dealt with.
- Legislation and regulations: Many roles require an in-depth understanding of, or experience interpreting and applying, laws or regulations. If that’s the case for your role, include the names of these laws, acts, regulations and codes of conduct on your resume, including shortened and extended versions if possible. Including memberships of industry groups and specific licences can also demonstrate in-depth understanding of a specific area and provides another way to include relevant keywords.
- Jargon: Include industry jargon and technical terms that are relevant and appropriate to your expertise and future goals. This includes acronyms, with the full description in brackets the first time they appear, so both versions are included.
When preparing your application and online profile, think like a recruiter filling the job you want. How is that job described in job ads? What skills, capabilities, qualifications and tools are required? Decide on your keywords based on the categories we’ve listed above. Then incorporate those keywords logically into your content.
Avoid madly listing or repeating keywords – this is known as ‘keyword stuffing’ and applicant tracking systems can easily recognise it and may reject your application. But get your keywords right and you’ll be well on your way to your next great job.
Would you like help preparing a top-quality job application or LinkedIn profile that focuses on the right keywords? Our experienced writers can help you create a professional resume and LinkedIn profile designed to make employers sit up and take notice. To find out more, read about our Services.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut – doing the same things, day in day out, without really enjoying them, but not giving it much thought. Work can become monotonous but most of us can’t afford to leave a job whenever the mood takes us. However, sometimes work starts to make us truly unhappy. Often we wait too long to leave or put off the decision because it’s easier to stay. So how can you tell if it’s time to move on from your job?
Recognising and accepting that it’s time to leave your job can be tough. You may have a ‘good’ job and work for a good company. Maybe you like your co-workers and get on well with your boss. But when it comes to your career, that’s not always enough. Simply feeling dissatisfied might not be a sufficient reason to leave, but there are certain situations that definitely indicate it could be time to move on. If any of the following apply to you, start planning now.
- Mondayitis is extending to the whole week: And your ‘bad week’ has turned into a ‘bad month’. Everyone has their off days or weeks. Things can go wrong, or maybe you feel overwhelmed and unable to get on top of things. However, if you’re constantly stressed or unhappy, waking up miserable most days and dreading going to work, that’s a sign it’s time to find something new.
- You’re bored: Feeling challenged at work is crucial for long-term satisfaction. If you find yourself doing the same things over and over, with nothing new to excite you, talk to your supervisor about your options. Ask if you can take on new or different responsibilities or tasks. If that isn’t an option, is there something in another department, or a special project you can work on for a short period of time to reignite your passion? If you can’t come to an agreement about new responsibilities, then it’s probably time to exit. You can help prevent the same thing happening again by asking questions in your next interview about career growth, support and development.
- You’re not achieving your desired work-life balance: Most of us are working more hours every week, which can compromise our health and wellbeing. With technology allowing us to be connected 24/7, it’s even more difficult to switch off. If you feel your employer is making it difficult for you to find time for friends, family or doing some of the things you love, it might be time to start searching for a new opportunity.
- You’re consistently overlooked for promotion: If you regularly put your hand up but you’re not really getting anywhere, what is the reason? Is someone standing in your way or are you doing something to sabotage your own success? If the problem is something out of your control, try raising the issue with your boss and if they struggle to provide a clear answer, it’s likely that the situation won’t change much in the future.
- Your company or industry is shrinking: If your company or industry as a whole is experiencing slow or negative growth, it might be time to get out while you still have a job.
- You dislike the people you work with: While it’s not viable that everyone gets on with everyone all the time, sometimes personality clashes just aren’t fixable. It’s important to know when that’s the case, and if it is, you may be better off looking for a new role.
- You don’t feel appreciated: It can be frustrating if you feel taken for granted or your advice is often ignored. If you work hard and are committed, you shouldn’t feel undervalued in the business. Talk to your boss about how you feel, and if they can’t provide a solution you’re happy with, you might want to consider your options.
We spend so much of our lives working, you owe it to yourself to ensure you enjoy going to work each day (or at least most days). If you’re working in a job that isn’t fulfilling, and you’re no longer learning and growing, it might be time to make a move.
Would you like assistance from a Career Coach to help you work out if it’s time to move on? Or perhaps you’ve already made the decision to leave and you need some help developing a tailored Job Search Strategy to secure your future? To find out more, read about our services.
Our new ‘How to answer’ series proved popular last month, when we looked at how to respond to the interview question, “Tell me about yourself”. This month’s question – “Why should we hire you?” – is just as important, and can be just as tricky to answer. You’ll need to prepare a compelling summary of why they should hire you, while remaining flexible enough to think and respond on the spot.
An interviewer’s main purpose is to collect information on candidates to help make the best decision about who to hire. They may ask this question in several ways, but your response will provide the same outcome. Examples include:
- Why should we hire you?
- Why are you the best candidate for the job?
- Why are you the right fit for the position?
- What would you bring to the position?
Even if you don’t get asked this question specifically, you should try to communicate the key reasons they should hire you throughout the interview. If you are asked this question, you’ll have a great opportunity to present a concise sales pitch describing what you offer. You’re usually being hired to solve a problem or address a requirement. The better you demonstrate how you’re going to do that, the more chance you’ll have of getting the job. Follow our step-by-step process to prepare.
- Create a pitch. Identify the skills, qualifications and experience you need to succeed in the role, and relate them back to yourself. Do this by reviewing the job description and highlighting key requirements, including qualifications, specialist technical skills, experience, soft skills and personality traits. Then match them with the qualities you possess. Select three of your strongest areas and make these the core of your answer. When you’re developing your pitch, focus on the positives and keep linking your response back to the company and the position.
- Research the organisation. Once you’ve identified the personal and professional capabilities you need to highlight, do some research on the company. Pay particular attention to social media accounts since this is where you’ll get a better understanding of company culture. This is important because employees who are a good cultural fit are more likely to feel satisfied in their jobs. This generally leads to higher retention rates, and since recruitment is a costly and time-consuming exercise, organisations tend to hire based on shared values and cultural beliefs.
- Tell stories. Stories paint a picture and a picture paints a thousand words! Rather than simply stating you have a particular skill or personality trait, support it with a story that ‘shows’ rather than just ‘tells’. For each of the points you highlighted above, think of a time you used that skill or trait to achieve a positive result. Structure your story using the STAR formula to ensure you cover all the important areas, and make sure your examples end with a positive outcome or result. (Want more tips on using storytelling to engage and persuade in the workplace? Take a look at our previous blog post.)
- Think beyond the obvious. You know you’re up against candidates who are likely to be just as qualified and experienced as you, so work out what you offer that others don’t. By thinking outside the job description, you can demonstrate how you’re a better candidate. Highlighting unique traits or experiences will set you apart. This is key in a competitive job market.
- Solve a problem. If you’ve researched the company well, you may identify a specific need or problem that’s driven this round of recruitment. Try to demonstrate previous success in a similar situation, or simply articulate an approach or an idea about how you’d begin to solve the problem.
“Why should we hire you?” is an important question to answer well, but try not to overthink it. While it’s a good idea to practise your pitch so you can deliver it smoothly, you don’t need to memorise it word for word or it will sound forced. Have a general idea of what you’d like to say, but remain open to addressing additional issues or information that arises during the interview. Talk for no longer than two minutes and aim to cover three main points.
Do you struggle with answering questions like this during interviews? If you’d like some help preparing for a job interview, so you can build your confidence and increase your success rate, take a look at our Interview Training and Coaching Services.
The transformational impact of technology on people, processes and businesses is never ending. We have never been more connected globally and new technologies are emerging every day, so the skills you’ll need for the jobs of the future aren’t necessarily those that you use today. What skills will you need?
The jobs of today are very different to those of our parents and grandparents, so where will we be 20 years from now? And how can we make sure we’re still employable? As new jobs emerge, others become obsolete. It can be a challenge to stay ahead, but ensuring your knowledge and skills remain current and marketable is an important career move. Here are some of the key job skills we think you’ll need for the future.
- Tech know-how: Proficiency with technology is now expected in most jobs. Think about how a GP uses technology today compared to 10 or 20 years ago. The use of mobile technology has also dramatically increased, and the globalisation of many markets means that working with technology rather than against it is key. The more flexible you are in navigating these changes, and in becoming proficient in using new technology, the easier your work life will be.
- Critical thinking and problem solving: The future will have problems we’ve never experienced. The ability to think outside the box, see the big picture, analyse different situations, rearrange information to identify explanations and make decisions on the fly will put you in a great position.
- Creativity: We know that workers with creative-thinking and imagination skills will remain in demand. Examples include jobs where you need to create original content, manage others and/or interact with stakeholders, think unconventionally, or apply expertise to make decisions or innovate. Creativity isn’t limited to traditional artistic pursuits such as art, music and writing. In this context, it’s about innovation and resourcefulness – the ability to pull together disparate information and conceive viable solutions and approaches.
- Adaptability: The ability to quickly change, develop new skills, take on new responsibilities and work with automation or machines is important. Having flexibility to move to other areas will drive future career success, and acquiring the necessary skills or retraining in other areas will be your responsibility.
- Information analysis: In our current information age, we generate more data than we know what to do with. While access to the information we collect has significantly improved in recent times, the ability to analyse it through a critical lens to come up with meaningful observations that drive decisions is key.
- People skills and collaboration: While technology will eventually take over many areas, human interaction will never disappear, so the ability to work with people will remain important. Success will require you to ask questions, listen, interpret needs and work cooperatively with others. Learning how to use new communication and collaboration platforms will also be vital.
- SMAC: You’ve probably heard of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) is fairly new. Learning how to leverage these platforms in your daily work will help you stand out in the future job market.
- Cultural acumen: The modern workplace is full of remote employees, global offices and flexible contracts. For many of us, our workday reality is living in one country and working virtually with people in other parts of the world. Being able to understand and appreciate cultural differences and social interaction will be essential.
- Networking: Most experts agree that networking and word of mouth will be more important in securing jobs in the future. While networking is not new, technological advances mean the way we do it is vastly different to 10 years ago. Keep track of everyone you meet, stay in touch, join professional networking groups and take advantage of LinkedIn.
Are you always listening, learning and planning? Continuous learning of new skills is essential for job success in the future. Take on new responsibilities, remain flexible, embrace our rapidly changing world and use any setbacks as learning experiences. That way, you’ll find yourself in the best position to capitalise on opportunities as they arise.
Would you like assistance from a Career Coach to identify areas where you might be able to improve your skillset to create your dream career? Or perhaps you’d like some help developing a tailored Job Search Strategy to secure your future? To find out more, read about our Services.
This is the first article in our brand new series ‘How to answer’, which explores the best ways to answer specific interview questions. This month we look at the recruiter’s all-time favourite, “Tell me about yourself”. This seemingly simple question can stump candidates who aren’t sure which details to share about their personal and professional background, and how much information to provide.
Our best advice for answering this question is to be prepared for it and keep your response simple and relevant. This question is often asked early on and can set the tone for the entire interview. Read on for our key tips for success.
If you aren’t prepared, you run the risk of rambling on without actually saying much, and skipping important details, which could jeopardise your chances. So take some time to think through your response before the interview.
- Instead of just summarising your resume, go through the job description in detail and identify the skills, experience and qualifications needed to succeed in the role. Think about how your expertise relates to this job and then pinpoint ways to demonstrate capacity in those areas.
- Keep your response concise by preparing a summary that you can recite in around two minutes. If you include enough topics of interest, the recruiter can ask you to expand on certain areas if they wish.
- Instead of listing multiple, vague strengths, use examples to demonstrate your relevant capabilities. Short, sharp stories about what you did, how you did it and what the outcome was work well. These examples should ideally come from recent work experience, but you can also include volunteer experience or student projects or activities if necessary.
A recruiter or employer probably isn’t interested in your life story, but they are interested in hearing how your professional experience and background makes you an ideal candidate for the role.
- Avoid mentioning personal information such as marital status, children, and political and religious beliefs. These details aren’t necessary for an employer to determine whether you can perform a role, and they can be sensitive topics that may impact an employer’s personal opinion of you. You can talk a little about personal interests, but only if it has some relevance to the role or the personal skills required to succeed.
- Don’t rush into talking about what you are seeking in a role or how the company might benefit you. Save that for if you’re asked, or mention it in the final stages of the interview.
Structuring your response:
An ideal way to construct your response to the question “Tell me about yourself” is to focus on present, past and future. This will help you organise your thoughts.
- PRESENT – Start talking about what you’re doing (and achieving) in your current role. List your areas of responsibility that relate directly to the role you’re applying for, and highlight recent successes. Use statistics, numbers and other hard measures of success where you can, with specific details that demonstrate the value you’re adding. You might say something like: “In my current business development manager role for <Company> I’m responsible for leading a team of four people to support a portfolio of 400 national clients. I’m accountable for achieving sales targets and KPIs, and have consistently exceeded my sales targets since starting in the role five years ago. I’ve also initiated and developed several strategic partnerships to drive industry engagement, built the team from one to four, and managed revenue growth in the region from $3 million to $5 million.”
- PAST – Next, talk about what you’ve done in previous roles, again not going into too much detail but focusing on relevant experience/achievements and how you’ve grown. You might say: “Previously, I worked as an account manager for <Company> with a focus on the media and entertainment sector. I developed a fantastic professional network within some of the largest media companies in Australia, which I’d be able to leverage in this role.”
- FUTURE – Finish with a statement about why you’re looking for a new role and what it is about this role that appeals. You might say something like: “I’ve been working towards a role like this for several years now. I feel I’ve gained enough success in this market to progress into a more focused account management role. I’m excited about this role at <Company> and the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with fewer, larger clients.”
“Tell me about yourself” can be a surprisingly tricky question to answer well. Remember to focus on the experiences and skills that are most relevant to the role and company you’re interviewing for. Ask yourself what you’d most like the recruiter to remember about you and focus on that. A well-thought-out answer will create a good first impression and set you up for a positive interview experience.
Do you struggle with answering questions like this during interviews? If you’d like some help preparing for a job interview, so you can build your confidence and increase your success rate, take a look at our Interview Training and Coaching Services.
Podcasts can provide great inspiration across a range of areas. These convenient, bite-sized chunks of content are also a good way to up-skill or improve your knowledge about various topics, since they’re usually delivered by people with a passion for, and deep understanding of, what they’re talking about.
Whether you’re looking for your first career, searching for major change, struggling with your current role, interested in starting a business or just need inspiration and motivation, there is something for everyone! Here’s a few of our favourites.
Career Tools: A weekly podcast focused on specific actions you can take to grow and enhance your career – no matter what industry or position you’re in. With topics ranging from communication to meeting performance, productivity, workload, asking for feedback, relationships, changing jobs and everything in between, there is sure to be something of interest.
How did you get into that?: Host Grant Baldwin interviews people from all walks of life who are doing interesting or amazing things to make a living. Each episode includes a story about someone who wanted something more from life and made it happen. You’ll find interviews with entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, speakers, writers, filmmakers, photographers, athletes, venture capitalists, Etsy sellers, comedians, nutritionists and more, across all different industries.
Beyond the To Do list: Struggling to juggle life and work? This award-nominated podcast features actionable tips from highly successful people that can help you choose the right projects, tasks and goals in work and life. Host Erik Fisher talks with real people who implement productivity strategies in their professional and personal lives.
Miss Independent: Focused on a female audience, Natalie Hughes founded Miss Independent in 2017 and launched a podcast that features conversations with women in leadership and business. Natalie talks with a broad range of interesting, diverse and inspiring women in leadership and business. She discusses their successes and setbacks, as well as secrets and tips to inspire you to make your own career decision with confidence.
Flying Solo: This is a podcast for anyone starting or growing a small business. Host Robert Gerrish talks with inspiring soloists and expert guests on all things solo, micro and small business.
The Signal: Sometimes the news can feel overwhelming. This ABC Radio podcast helps to sort the news from the noise. It’s a quick (10-15 minute) dive into current news stories that matter, delivered every morning.
Business Women Australia Podcast: Another one focused on a female audience, this podcast is for ambitious women who are serious about business success and leadership development. It provides tips and ideas for those interested in building their knowledge and skills.
Happen to your career: Created for people who aren’t happy in their job, or need some guidance to find work they really love, this podcast helps people to match their strengths to work they will find interesting and meaningful.
Productivityist: Hosted by productivity expert Mike Vardy, this weekly podcast gives listeners tips, tricks, tactics and tools to improve productivity and time management in order to get things done.
The Good Work Revolution: This podcast looks at how you can feel fulfilled and make a positive impact through your work. Each episode includes reflections from different guests, or the host, Kate McCready, on how we can create ‘good work’. It explores people’s relationships with their work – how it influences fulfilment, wellbeing, engagement and a sense of contribution and connection. It’s also about lifting people up and helping them elevate their personal ability to have an impact – whether small and local or big and world changing.
The Tim Ferris Show: Author and entrepreneur, Tim Ferris – best known for The 4-Hour Workweek (which has been translated into 40+ languages), hosts this podcast. In it, he interviews highly successful people and discovers the keys to their success. Guests provide some great tips and tricks that anyone can use to accelerate their work style.
The Jack Delosa Podcast: Founder of Australia’s largest and most disruptive education institution for entrepreneurs, The Entourage, Jack Delosa also co-founded MBE Education, which helped SMEs raise money from investors. He’s been on the BRW Young Rich List since 2014 and is a two-time bestselling author. In The Jack Delosa Podcast, Jack answers questions about business, start-ups, entrepreneurship and the importance of mindset, and shares exclusive interviews with industry leaders and innovators.
Inspire Nation: A top self-help and spirituality show across 185 countries, this podcast features an inspiring new guest every day. Host Michael Sandler felt a calling to start his life-changing show after surviving two near-death accidents. The broad-ranging topics include how to find more energy, strength, happiness, peace, purpose, confidence, and heart to live your greatest life.
Behind the Media: The Australian’s media diarist Stephen Brook hosts this weekly podcast where he interviews journalists, writers, editors, presenters and other media careerists. This podcast is sometimes casual, sometimes serious but presents a diverse range of guests discussing the state of the media industry and their own careers.
Thought Capital: This is a relatively new podcast created by Monash Business School. Host Michael Pascoe delves into topics you probably won’t read about in the business pages. What’s the link between Big Data and election rigging? How can you identify the true ‘key players’ in an economic meltdown? Is there a ‘tax paradise’ and can you live there?
The Leadership Dojo: Hosted by Alex Barker, this podcast features interviews with some of the greatest and most inspirational leaders, from business CEOs to famous Olympic athletes to best-selling authors. Alex aims to help listeners learn success principles from leaders and how to apply them to daily life.
48 days to the work you love: This is a 48-minute weekly podcast hosted by US-based career expert and author Dan Miller, which helps listeners discover their true calling, find work they love, and explore business ideas and opportunities. Dan helps people overcome procrastination with a mission to foster the process of imagining, dreaming and introspection, so they can find purposeful and profitable daily work.
Podcasts are a great distraction during long commutes and there are plenty to choose from across every area of interest. Simply search on a topic and select from a list of top-ranked podcasts. For Australian-specific podcasts, check out the Australian Podcast Awards, an event that brings together podcasters to celebrate the medium’s ability to entertain, inspire and engage audiences worldwide. The site includes a list of annual winners and nominees across different categories to give you some listening inspiration.
Are you happy at work? Career counselling can be an invaluable tool for helping you explore your options and decide on a new career path or course. To find out how we can help, read about our career coaching services.
Many of our clients are at their wits end when they approach us for assistance. They’re qualified, experienced, dedicated, and committed to their field. They’re applying for roles they think suit their areas of expertise but they just aren’t achieving the traction they feel they deserve. Sound familiar? Finding a job takes effort, commitment, time, and energy.
To ensure success, you need a plan. Of course you need a polished application and a strong LinkedIn profile, but you also need to be prepared. In recent years, the employment market has changed significantly and it continues to change rapidly with constantly evolving approaches. We have talked before about the importance of developing a structured job search strategy, but here are our tips on what you can do today to help you succeed:
TIP # 1 – Be open to change: How many applications have you sent off and how many interviews have you secured? If you’ve been applying for jobs unsuccessfully for some time now, it might be time to shake things up. You could ask someone in your industry to review your approach and provide feedback, or consider seeking the advice of an expert. At the very least, talk to someone you trust and review your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and general approach together. Be open to feedback – positive and negative – and be prepared to make some changes to your approach if recommended.
TIP # 2 – Establish a plan: Today’s job market is not only competitive, it’s also complicated. There are many avenues to tap into – including advertised and unadvertised job markets. You need to be very organised with a structured approach to identify and apply for all the positions you may be suitable for. A detailed plan will help you do this. See our previous article How to be a great job seeker for more detailed tips on developing a structured job search strategy.
TIP # 3 – Build your online presence: There are several ways to do this including with your LinkedIn profile, by writing a blog, developing your own website, creating a Facebook page, Twitter account, or YouTube videos. This is especially important if you are looking for contract/freelance work. For professional roles, recruiters will most likely review your LinkedIn and social media profiles. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date with relevant information and keywords, as well as a current, professional photo. Provide as much detail as you can, including additional sections such as qualifications, certifications, courses, memberships, interests etc. Many people don’t include a summary, and this is a mistake. Use the summary to introduce yourself – give an overview of your key skills, experience and strengths to provide readers with a sense of the value you could bring to an organisation. Don’t be afraid to inject some personality – LinkedIn doesn’t need to be as formal as your resume. Use LinkedIn to research recruitment consultants and HR managers from companies you’d like to target. Join relevant groups, follow companies you’d like to work for, and connect with others in your industry. Likewise, with personal social media profiles, update your privacy settings, and leverage your profiles to improve your ‘online footprint’ and enhance your prospects through improved social responsibility.
TIP # 4 – Develop relationships: A large percentage of available jobs are never advertised, but accessed via what we call ‘the hidden job market’. Network with others in your industry, join relevant LinkedIn Groups and make active contributions to help build your profile, and connect with appropriate recruiters. Develop a standard pitch as to why you want to connect and what you can offer, then set up meetings to discuss potential opportunities. Think about specific companies you’d like to work for then research their website careers page and follow them on social media. Think about who you know and who you might be able to connect with. Let your network know you are seeking new opportunities. There are many different ways to connect with your network so use them all – phone calls, emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, face to face and online networking groups. Seek out relevant professional associations and networking groups, attend seminars, and connect with others in your industry.
TIP # 5 – Be specific: Recruiters are time-poor so make it easy for them to see the value you can add. We strongly recommend writing a customised cover letter to address as many specific ‘job requirements’ as you can. Make an effort to understand the company and/or the industry and comment on how you might be able to solve a specific challenge or contribute to the company’s success. We also often recommend tailoring your resume to suit specific roles. This may seem time consuming however it may be as simple as reordering your key capabilities, highlighting a particular achievement, or de-emphasising points that may not be relevant. Review the job ad, or detailed job description, and ensure that if you have the experience or skills they are asking for, they are well highlighted and easily understood.
Today’s job market is competitive and complex with many aspects involved. If you’re finding it tough to secure your next opportunity, you’re not alone. That doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t achieve success. Take some time to think about all the aspects that are important to you and your area of expertise.
Are you interested in tailoring your application for improved success? Would you like some assistance from a professional writer to prepare a winning resume for your next job application? Are you interested in preparing a customised job search strategy? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services and Job Search Coaching Services.
We often tell our clients that job applications are like sales proposals and any good sales person knows how important tailoring is for success. If you’ve been applying for jobs unsuccessfully, taking a more tailored approach to preparing your application might be a good place to start.
While we always recommend that our clients write a customised cover letter for each role, working to tailor your entire application is often something relegated to the ‘too hard’ basket. The process of tailoring your resume and/or LinkedIn profile can sound time consuming, but we challenge you to take a good look at your application and ask yourself (as the recruiter) ‘what’s in it for me?’ Your job application should immediately highlight you as someone who can add value in the role. If it doesn’t do that, you’re not giving yourself the best opportunity to succeed.
Before we start with the tailoring process, we are assuming you have a great resume in place already – a document that highlights who you are, identifies your key skills, and shows the value you have added in previous roles. If you haven’t already done that, then focus on that step first – see our previous article How to Write a Resume – Top 10 Tips to get started. Then, follow these simple steps to tailor your application for success:
- Do your research: The first step is research. Read the job ad and identify exactly what’s required. Highlight specific skills or experience that seem important and make notes. If the company is advertising directly, view their website, search the company name and find out if there is any news or company activity that may impact the job. Writing just one sentence in your cover letter referencing a current situation, challenge or opportunity the company is facing could mean the difference between success and failure at this initial stage.
- Customise your career profile: We recommend including a good strong career profile as the first section in your resume. Your career profile should highlight what you bring to the role. It should clearly demonstrate your skills and past experience and highlight how they add value to an organisation. Most people see this section as fairly standard, however by customising the content to address specific individual job requirements, you’ll put yourself a step ahead. Make it personal, enthusiastic, passionate, easy to understand, and engaging – and clearly demonstrate to the recruiter how you’ll excel. This can also apply to your LinkedIn profile summary – we would take a similar approach to tailoring the content to ensure you’ve covered off the key skills and attributes required for the role. We don’t recommend doing this for every role, however if there is a role you’re applying for that mentions new or different skills (that you possess but aren’t covered effectively), you should work to incorporate them.
- Change your key capability list: Once you know the recruiter’s main priorities in terms of what they’re looking for in a candidate, you can customise your key capabilities to meet those needs. In its simplest form, this means re-ordering your ‘key capabilities and skills’. Get more involved by rewording those points and/or customising them to suit the role. Again, this also applies to LinkedIn so make sure you’ve covered off all the main areas within the ‘skills and endorsements’ section.
- Show your value: If a buyer can’t see the value in a product or service, they simply won’t buy it. Same goes for your job application. If you don’t offer the recruiter what they’re looking for, you won’t succeed. Your application needs to demonstrate to the recruiter how you are going to add value. This process is simple once you know their pain points because you can clearly demonstrate how you have the best solution. Again, customisation is important so spend time ensuring the content in your documents targets and addresses as many of the requirements of the role as you can. Use past successes and achievements to show how you’ve ‘added value’ in the past.
- Write a customised cover letter: We can’t stress enough how important this step is. Writing a customised cover letter is the simplest way for your application to stand out. If a recruiter receives 100 or so applications, how do you think they’re going to choose which ones to actually read in detail? Research has proven that you literally have seconds to make a good first impression. Preparing a cover letter that highlights your key skills, experiences and past achievements that are highly relevant to the role you are applying for increases your chances significantly of getting noticed.
- Change your job history order: This is not something we recommend doing unless absolutely necessary because it can confuse the reader. However, where we would recommend doing this is if you have highly relevant experience in your past work history, where your recent roles and experience are not at all relevant. In this case, we recommend applicants make a new section which is included upfront and entitled “Relevant Employment History” then list the relevant job history. You would then move your recent and other roles to a section called “Other Employment History”. This ensures the recruiter sees your ‘relevant’ experience first but the title of the section will give insight into why that experience is not recent.
Preparing a tailored application for every role you apply for is something you should strongly think about making time for. While it might sound time consuming, the reward far outweighs the effort. You’ll end up with an application that screams ‘look at me’ to the recruiter and that is exactly the position you want to be in!
Are you interested in tailoring your application for improved success? Would you like some assistance from a professional writer to prepare a winning resume for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services and Job Search Coaching Services.
Asking your own great questions during a job interview will not only give you a feel for whether you actually want to work there, but the recruiter will also think more positively of you. Formulating some questions before the interview to ensure you’re well prepared is the best approach.
Whether you’re looking for your first job, or your tenth, asking insightful questions in an interview is a must. It shows confidence, preparedness and professionalism, and is something the recruiter will be keen to explore with you.
Having a pre-prepared list is a great idea, however usually the best questions will be driven by your conversation in the interview, so don’t be afraid to jot down notes as you go. These notes will help you formulate relevant and insightful questions that relate specifically to the interview and the role. Use your pre-prepared questions as the basis – while ensuring relevance to the conversation you’ve had. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Show interest: Do your homework and find out about the company. Devise questions that relate to recent news or events. Start your question by saying “I read about XYZ and wanted to find out more about how that impacts this role”.
- Training & development: Ask about the company’s policy on professional training and education, formal mentoring or coaching, and attendance at workshops and seminars. Great companies want to hire people dedicated to personal and professional growth so show it’s important to you. “What opportunities will I have to learn and grow?”
- Strategic plans: Ask about the company’s strategic plan, or better yet, have some idea from your research, and ask how it fits with this role/department. “What are the company’s goals for the next five years?” “How does this role contribute to that?” “What are the biggest opportunities/threats facing the company right now?”
- Structure: Ask why the person is leaving the role OR for a newly created role, where the work has come from. It is helpful to know if you will be stepping into someone else’s shoes or paving your own way in a new role. It also helps you understand any career path opportunities and/or blocks. “Why is the position vacant?” If the previous employee left, ask why they left. “Did they leave for another organisation, were they made redundant or promoted?”
- Culture: Ask about the turnover rate on the team or the organisation to find out if it’s unusually high (a worry)? “What is the current staff turnover rate (in the team or in the company)?” Or ask straight out “What is the company culture like? What is your favourite thing about working for the company?”
- Performance: Ask about the performance review processes, and whether there are any KPIs/targets upon which the role is evaluated. “How is success measured in this role?” Find out what the role expectations are for the first 6 or 12 months. “What would you want to see me accomplish in the first six months?” “What are some of the challenges that the predecessor faced in this role?”
- Your suitability for the role: Ask the interviewer if there is anything else they’d like to know about you – or whether they have any hesitations about you being able to do the job. Don’t be frightened of this one – it’s great feedback for you personally and if there are uncertainties you might be able to dispel them. “Is there anything that makes you doubt I would be a great fit for this position?”
- Next steps: Ask what will happen next, how long the decision is likely to take and whether you might be required for another interview. “What are the next steps in your recruitment process?” “What’s the timeline for making a decision?”
Focus your questions on the role, company, its strategic focus, general direction and/or competitive environment – and how that impacts the role you are applying for.
Remember, you should try to ask at least a few questions to show that you’ve come prepared and are interested in the role and company. If possible, listen carefully to the interviewer’s answers and devise further questions that expand on that conversation.
Would you like some assistance preparing for a job interview, to ensure the questions you ask are insightful, positive and professional? If so, please see our Interview Training and Coaching Services.
While your active presentation of yourself is important to secure your dream job, the reality is that recruiters will explore your background more proactively through social media. That doesn’t mean changing everything about yourself and altering your online profile, but it does mean taking some steps to ensure it’s clean.
In a recent report on the current state of hiring in Australia, 9 out of 10 Australian hiring managers felt the need to look beyond active applicants to fill a role. By exploring a person’s online activity, recruiters can determine if the face you put forward in your application is a representation of your true self. That means it’s essential to ensure your online presence matches what you wish to convey.
This doesn’t mean being ambiguous or vague about who you are, it doesn’t mean changing everything about yourself, and it certainly doesn’t mean deleting all records of yourself online. Conversely, while it is important to maintain a clean online profile, a positive online footprint can be an important aspect in securing your dream role. We talk a lot about consistency of message and maintaining that across all your job search tools. This includes professional online tools like your website, blogs and LinkedIn profile – but it also applies to your person social media profiles and other online content. A negative and unappealing presence can result in you missing out, even if you’re a great candidate in all other areas.
Below are some quick tips that apply across all social media. While some are more relevant to certain sites than others – all can be leveraged in one way or another to help clean up your profile.
- Update your photo: This is particularly necessary if it is more than a couple of years old. Always go for a clear head and shoulders shot – taken against a white or plain background and not a cropped image from a social situation.
- Update your summary, bio or ‘about me’ section: Make it interesting and relevant, highlighting the personal or business traits you want to emphasise – and ensure it’s up to date with your latest and greatest accomplishments and interests. For LinkedIn, your professional headline automatically defaults to your most recent (or current) job title. Change this to brand yourself while adding relevant keywords to your profile. Decide what you want to be known for and make this your professional headline. For more tips on creating a great bio, read our article ‘How to write a winning bio’.
- Check your settings: Take some time to understand the different security and privacy settings across different sites. For example, on certain settings LinkedIn notifies connections when you’ve updated your profile. If you don’t want your employer to know you’re working on your profile – check these settings. Likewise, with Facebook and other personal social media, check your settings to maintain some level of discretion – but don’t depend on it as your security blanket because it’s not foolproof.
- Claim your vanity URL: A vanity URL is a custom URL address that is specifically branded for marketing purposes. Many social media websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google Plus offer this facility. It helps users remember how to find specific pages – which means it should be easy to remember, use, and share. Often your name will be gone to someone who claimed it earlier, so we always suggest trying the best combination of your actual name rather than non-descript letters and numbers (which is what the system usually generates). Each site will have its own specific instructions on how to change this so simply search the site’s help section for instructions.
- Check your posts: Looking at what you’re posting and commenting on with an objective eye is really important. Think about the impression you might be giving to a potential recruiter – and be mindful of unnecessarily alienating people due to controversial beliefs or posts. If you’re not sure, ask someone you trust – preferably someone with different beliefs to you. Again it’s not about concealing who you are, but rather about being mindful of your public image.
- Clean up your friends lists and likes: For Facebook, this means unfollowing people or businesses that no longer interest you. Consider grouping individuals into the readymade ‘Acquaintances List’ which means they will show up less in your feeds. Review all your groups and leave if they are no longer relevant. In addition, consider ‘unliking’ pages that contain posts and/or conversations which could be seen as inappropriate. For other social media sites, a similar approach is needed – review groups, likes, follows etc. and clean them up as appropriate.
Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs and other social media can be easily accessed by recruiters and usually don’t lie. If you are expressing strong opinions or comments and sharing controversial photos or topics, this could ruin your chances of securing your dream role. On a positive note, recruiters use social media to search for aspects about an individual that may demonstrate good cultural fit. Leverage your social media pages to improve your ‘online footprint’ and enhance your prospects through improved social responsibility.
Is your social media presenting the best version of you online? Would you like assistance auditing your online profile – perhaps developing a professional, keyword optimised LinkedIn profile or bio that highlights your strengths and achievements and sets you apart from your competitors? If so please see our LinkedIn profile writing service or check out our job search coaching service.
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